Payroll Software Training: A Post-Implementation Primer
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By Dave Foxall
Training for Payroll System Basics and Beyond
At a conference dedicated to the implementation of various SAP applications, survey results showed that the single greatest perceived determinant of software implementation success is training. However, training to support an organization’s new payroll software does not end simply because the go-live date has passed without incident. After all, the likelihood is that the training commissioned as part of the payroll software implementation strategy primarily addressed the basics of what users needed to know in order to successfully launch the application on time (e.g. familiarity with user interfaces, run-throughs and practice with specific processes and workflows, and a general awareness of the possibilities of any broader system integrations). As to be expected, often for go-live success a narrow focus is necessary for proving the initial return-on-investment (ROI) and demonstrating a shortened time-to-value; a distinctly myopic but necessary approach that mitigates being sidetracked by the wider possibilities available in the payroll application. This deliberately-limited approach lays the foundation for ongoing payroll system training.
A Radiant Systems white paper, Training: A Critical Success Factor in Implementing a Technology Solution further emphasizes this fact, stating "Delivering the right training at the right time requires choosing a learning approach that will move an organization toward its strategic objectives and then deploying the training as effectively as possible." Of note though, a great deal of that training deployment can take place after go-live as part of a process of enriching user skills, increasing adoption of key features, and enhancing value to the organization. Here we highlight the four main post-implementation training areas that organizations should focus on to maintain and maximize a payroll software investment.
Payroll Post-Implementation Training Focus #1: Additional Functionality
As the organization seeks to more fully leverage its new software acquisition by bringing added features online (or extending the payroll solution’s integration with other HR and business intelligence systems), key user groups will require additional training to effectively increase their proficiency and the overall level of software utilization. For example, when it comes to using employee self-service (ESS) an appropriately cautious implementation strategy might introduce employees gently to the principle of ESS—creating familiarity through a restricted range of processes before opening up access to the full suite. Post-go-live though, in all likelihood there will be a large number of more advanced processes which need to be introduced. Indeed, as the Towers Watson report (2011-12 New Horizons - No Boundaries) states, "In the United States, while ESS personal data tools such as those for viewing pay stubs, changing personal data, and viewing vacation/sick time usage and balances are well established, we are seeing plans for substantial (18% to 20%) growth in 2011 and 2012 for setting up and making changes to direct deposit and viewing total compensation." Hence, as more sophisticated direct interaction between employees and the automated payroll system becomes possible, training must be given (both in basic new process navigation and the potential benefits that those processes can bring) to ensure full and widespread adoption.
Payroll Post-Implementation Training Focus #2: The Payroll Team
Not only will the payroll staff be the stakeholders with the greatest number of changes to their everyday working procedures, but in all likelihood the rest of the organization's employees will expect those staff to be the system experts in the new technology—making them an obvious target group for ongoing payroll system “maximization” training. In fact, ideally every member of the payroll team is a super user; a sentiment echoed by The Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) 2011 report, Transforming HR Through Technology. In it, the report notes that, "[system] skills will become more important for all HR professionals. Organizations will need HR staff members who can work effectively with external vendors and consultants to implement and upgrade software and evaluate implications of new software initiatives on the HR practices of the firm". As such, organizations should remain cognizant of the ongoing needs that personnel will have with regard to the payroll software implementation training.
Payroll Post-Implementation Training Focus #3: The C-Suite
Payroll software manages a key organizational process (both from the point of view of the individual employee and his or her salary, as well as on a more general strategic and budgetary level); and therefore is of fundamental interest to senior and C-suite role-holders. Over time, as the payroll solution is more fully leveraged, there will be enhanced reporting functionalities, more strategic integration with other systems (such as time and attendance, scheduling and leave management for improved workforce optimization), and even input into predictive human capital analytics. As such, it’s important for organizations to understand that senior decision-makers will only be able to take full advantage of such features when they are in receipt of the necessary awareness training.
Payroll Post-Implementation Training Focus #4: New Hires
The emphasis so far has been on those employees who were part of the initial implementation process and received the payroll software training relevant to their roles prior to go-live. Increasingly though as time moves on, there will be new recruits who are starting in the organization for whom an automated payroll system (and all its accessible functionality) is part of their initial onboarding awareness and training program. These new employees will not only need the post-implementation advanced functionality training (focus #1), but also the initial basic program. At the very least, the payroll implementation training program should be evaluated, refined, and improved in response to feedback and evaluation so that the new hires experience the best possible version. However, as the payroll software is constantly updated and expanded, it may be that new system-based training options become available which will supersede the original program.
The Payroll Post-Implementation Training Bottom Line
As Radiant Systems succinctly states, "In order to gain the greatest return on investment ... end users must understand how to use the product to its fullest capabilities." Of course though, the heart of what this sentiment implies (in regards to payroll software) is that an ongoing strategy of training is critical to ROI. Indeed, the training to support these capabilities should be a part of the payroll system’s maintenance—aligned with a program of system improvements as well as overall organizational strategic priorities.
Over time, as the payroll solution is more fully leveraged, there will be enhanced reporting functionalities, more strategic integration with other systems (such as time and attendance, scheduling and leave management for improved workforce optimization), and even input into predictive human capital analytics.”